Ontario Maple Syrup Producers’ Association President discusses how to grow industry

By Rocco Frangione
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The North Bay Nugget

As maple syrup season continues in Ontario, the President of the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers’ Association (OMSPA) met with the North Bay Nugget to discuss how to significantly increase maple syrup production in the province.

Randal Goodfellow was in Trout Creek recently for Ontario’s ceremonial first tap to officially kick start maple syrup season and talked about the current state of the maple syrup industry.

Goodfellow says Quebec accounts for about 90 per cent of all the maple syrup produced in Canada.

He added New Brunswick has overtaken Ontario for second place and represents about four percent of the production while Ontario, now in third place, makes up three percent of Canada’s maple syrup production.

Goodfellow says the anomaly is Ontario has a greater number of maple trees than Quebec and can easily match Quebec’s production numbers.

He says a major reason why Quebec outstrips Ontario’s production is that in some parts of Quebec maple syrup production remains a traditional way of life.

However, Goodfellow added there is a more significant factor also in play.

“The Quebec government has made significant investments in maple syrup production (to create) rural economic development,” Goodfellow told the Nugget.

“New Brunswick did the same thing. They came from nowhere in the last 10 to 15 years and now out produce Ontario.”

Goodfellow says Ontario produces two to three million litres of maple syrup each year but notes that’s not even close to Quebec’s annual output of five to seven million litres.

“We could match Quebec and even exceed it easily because of the number of maple trees in Ontario,” Goodfellow said. “But what we’re missing are the people who want to do it.”

Goodfellow says one way to encourage people to enter the maple syrup market is to help them with the capital equipment they need.

The OMSPA President says another way to expand the Ontario market is for the province to open up Crown Land to maple syrup production.

Goodfellow says this is what New Brunsick did with great success.

He says making Crown Land available to potential maple syrup producers in Ontario obviously means they don’t have to buy land which saves them money and then that’s money that can be applied to equipment.

Graydon Smith, who is the MPP for Parry Sound-Muskoka and also the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, was at the tree tapping ceremony, and Goodfellow says he told Smith he would like to discuss the Crown Land option with him.

Goodfellow told the Nugget Smith was receptive to the idea, but no timeline was set to discuss the matter in more detail.

Goodfellow said another obstacle to growing Ontario’s maple syrup industry is as existing producers become older and retire from the work, there aren’t enough younger people to replace them.

He says what’s needed is to attract people from other parts of the agricultural and non-agricultural sector and drive home the point that maple syrup production is a “lower capital cost form of farming.”

Goodfellow is also toying with the idea of visiting colleges and universities with agricultural programs and making the students aware that the maple syrup industry “has a very good combination of the right capital and better returns than other forms of agriculture.”

While at the tree tapping ceremony, Goodfellow also promoted the maple syrup industry’s summer tour and conference which North Bay hosts this summer.

The event is expected to attract up to 350 maple syrup producers from across Ontario who will exchange ideas and increase their knowledge base about the industry, plus vendors at the event will showcase some of the latest maple syrup-related equipment that’s available.

The July 17th through 20th conference includes a banquet and awards ceremony.

In addition, the producers will tour several sugar bushes in the Parry Sound and Nipissing Districts from Burk’s Falls to Lavigne.